Bcr: A conditional inhibitor of Bcr-Abl oncoprotein

Yun Wu, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is characterized cytogenetically by the presence of the Philadelphia chromosome and clinically by the clonal expansion of the hematopoietic stem cells and the accumulation of large numbers of myeloid cells. Philadelphia chromosome results from the reciprocal translocation between chromosomes 9 and 22 [t(9;22)(324;q11)], which fuses parts of the ABL proto-oncogene to 5′ portions of the BCR gene. The product of the fused gene is Bcr-Abl oncoprotein. Bcr-Abl oncoprotein has elevated protein tyrosine kinase activity, and is the cause of Philadelphia chromosome associated leukemias. The Bcr sequence in the fusion protein is crucial for the activation of Abl kinase activity and transforming phenotype of Bcr-Abl oncoprotein. Although the Bcr-Abl oncoprotein has been studied extensively, its normal counterpart, the Bcr protein, has been less studied and its function is not well understood. At this point, Bcr is known to encode a novel serine/threonine protein kinase. In Bcr-Abl positive leukemia cells, we found that the serine kinase activity of Bcr is impaired by tyrosine phosphorylation. Both the Bcr protein sequences within Bcr-Abl and the normal cellular Bcr protein lack serine/threonine kinase activity when they become phosphorylated on tyrosine residues by Bcr-Abl. Therefore, the goal of this study was to investigate the role of Bcr in Bcr-Abl positive leukemia cells. We found that overexpression of Bcr can inhibit Bcr-Abl tyrosine kinase activity, and the inhibition is dependent on its intact serine/threonine kinase function. Using the tet repressible promoter system, we demonstrated that Bcr when induced in Bcr-Abl positive leukemia cells inhibited the Bcr-Abl oncoprotein tyrosine kinase. Furthermore, induction of Bcr also increased the number of cells undergoing apoptosis and inhibited the transforming ability of Bcr-Abl. In contrast to the wild-type Bcr, the kinase-inactive mutant of Bcr (Y328F/Y360F) had no effects on Bcr-Abl tyrosine kinase in cells. Results from other experiments indicated that phosphoserine-containing Bcr sequences within the first exon, which are known to bind to the Abl SH2 domain, are responsible for observed inhibition of the Bcr-Abl tyrosine kinase. Several lines of evidence suggest that the phosphoserine form of Bcr, which binds to the Abl SH2 domain, strongly inhibits the Abl tyrosine kinase domain of Bcr-Abl Previously published findings from our laboratory have also shown that Bcr is phosphorylated on tyrosine residue 177 in Bcr-Abl positive cells and that this form of Bcr recruits the Grb2 adaptor protein, which is known to activate the Ras pathway. These findings implicate Bcr as an effector of Bcr-Abl's oncogenic activity. Therefore based on the findings presented above, we propose a model for dual Function of Bcr in Bcr-Abl positive leukemia cells. Bcr, when active as a serine/threonine kinase and thus autophosphorylating its own serine residues, inhibits Bcr-Abl's oncogenic functions. However, when Ber is tyrosine phosphorylated, its Bcr-Abl inhibitory function is neutralized thus allowing Bcr-Abl to exert its full oncogenic potential. Moreover, tyrosine phosphorylated Bcr would compliment Bcr-Abl's neoplastic effects by the activation of the Ras signaling pathway.

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Recommended Citation

Wu, Yun, "Bcr: A conditional inhibitor of Bcr-Abl oncoprotein" (1999). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9942100.